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Japanese Akoya Pearls vs. Chinese Akoya Pearls

*2014 - IMPORTANT NOTE: This Article was written many years ago and does not reflect the current Akoya pearl industry. All of our Akoya pearls are presently sourced from Japan and the Chinese industry has all but collapsed.


Within the pearl industry there is a mistaken belief that Japanese Akoya pearls are of finer quality then Chinese Akoya pearls. This statement would have been true as little as 5 years ago, but the cultured pearl industry has changed tremendously in recent years.

In 1994 Japan produced around 66% of all cultured Akoya pearls on the market - today the Japanese struggle to produce a mere 11% of the market. A few factors contribute to this loss of market share: namely the high cost of production and labor in Japan, plus severe pollution problems continuing to hurt the Japanese pearl farmers.

A little known secret of the Japanese Akoya pearl industry is they are the largest single importer of Chinese Akoya pearls. The Japanese factories import raw loose Chinese pearls, processing them with treatments and finishing them into jewelry, the final piece is now legally a “Product of Japan".

Today China is leading the cultured Akoya pearl industry and produces around 25 tons of Akoya pearls every year. The Chinese can, and do, consistently produce Akoya pearls of the same roundness and quality as their Japanese counterparts, with an average price tag of 33% less. As a result, cultured Akoya necklaces of exceptional quality are now available to the average consumer, who in previous years may not have been able to afford the inflated prices of Japanese Akoya pearls.

It is, of course, to the benefit of the retailer selling only Japanese Akoya pearls to perpetuate this myth. The fact remains you can not tell the origin of an Akoya pearl by looking at the pearl, only the pearl's quality.

In the end, it is up to the consumer to make an informed choice and a smart consumer will focus on pearl quality and ignore superfluous marketing.

More Akoya Pearl Information:

Akoya Pearl Basics
Akoya Pearl Overtones
Akoya Pearl Grading System

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